For Russia, extending its hand to the region might indeed be useful; for Saudi Arabia, the decision appears more pragmatic as its once go-to allies for economic cooperation have been the US and Europe. However, the Saudis have several reasons to no longer trust the West and to seek support elsewhere.
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As part of the scheme, visitors can apply for a one-year, multiple-entry visa, allowing them to spend up to 90 days in Saudi Arabia, which previously only recognized business and invitation visas. On the new Visit Saudi, website, available in English, Arabic and Chinese, a slick video promotes the country’s natural and cultural attractions, featuring foreign-looking people, including women not wearing the abaya, the full-body robe required for local women.
As well as the freedom to travel, the royal decrees also introduced new rights in Saudi Arabia to register marriages, divorces and births and make family documents. There was also reportedly a new concession to allow students to study abroad without a mahram (a legal escort). These reforms are substantial in providing women with the liberty to get an identity card more easily or to be able to access further educational opportunities.
International funding for the Palestinian Authority for over 25 years has led some countries, especially in Europe and the Middle East, to lose enthusiasm for what they see as financing the perpetuation of the Israeli occupation. As long as there is no political framework under international law, the Israeli occupation will continue to dominate the Palestinian territories.
The Saudi ambitions face a well-known reality: the rigidity of a society and authorities raised and existing only for the sake of preserving religion against ‘sin’ or ‘temptation to sin’. Once again, MBS’ ambitions and the apparent opening of Saudi society are facing reality: within a conservative country, basic entertainment is one step away of being subsersive. The nightclub might exist for another few events, but who knows long it can sustain the opposition.
State-backed religious clerics have defended the guardianship system, arguing that it is rooted in a Koranic verse. But Saudi Islamic feminists and other religious scholars criticize the interpretation, claiming that nowhere in sharia, Islamic law that is partially derived from the Koran, is guardianship codified.
Girls constitute 96 per cent of those fleeing the country. The study, conducted in the Mecca area, shows that the reasons given for running away were: misuse of social media, bad friends, misunderstanding of freedom, copying other cultures, weak beliefs, lack of emotional security, a need for adventure, bad treatment by a spouse, lack of communication with family members, verbal abuse, poverty, no monitoring by parents and violence from a parent or male sibling.